Northern Ireland news

Leading loyalist target of Antrim alert

A suspected firearm was recovered from a vehicle in Tarragon Park in Antrim following an arson attack. Picture by Mal McCann

A LEADING loyalist was believed to be the intended target of an arson attack in Antrim town that lead to residents being evacuated from their homes and a firearm being recovered.

The man who is originally from Belfast but has been living in the Town Park South area of Antrim for more than a decade.

A car parked in the Tarragon Road area, close to the man's home, was set on fire in the early hours of Friday.

Emergency services were called and the fire extinguished.

However, after a suspicious object was found in the vehicle police and army bomb disposal were called to the scene.

Sources said the man had been recently told he was under threat.

Several residents of Tarragon Road were evacuated from their homes at around 5am. Some families took shelter in nearby Stiles community centre while a local Spar provided food for the residents.

A controlled explosion was carried out and a second car parked nearby was also examined by police and bomb disposal experts.

A firearm was removed from the damaged car by forensic experts and taken away for examination.

Police have not said whether the weapon was a viable firearm or a replica handgun.

A 56-year-old man was arrested at the scene and held for several hours for questioning.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes at around 1pm on Friday.

The attack was condemned by local Alliance councillor Neil Kelly who attended the scene and spoke with residents.

Mr Kelly said families were "evacuated from their homes in the middle of the night due to the actions of mindless idiots who have no regard for the safety of others".

"I want to commend the PSNI for the manner in which they dealt with this incident and also thank council staff for making the community centre available.

"There is no place for this in Antrim Town and I would ask anyone with any information regarding these events to contact the PSNI immediately."

Superintendent Sue Steen said officers attended a report on Friday "of a car deliberately set alight shortly after 2.45am".

"The fire was extinguished and a suspicious object was located inside the vehicle," she said.

"A suspected firearm has now been removed from the vehicle by police for further examination.

"Police would like to thank the local community for their patience and understanding, as officers worked to keep the area safe."

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